773rd CST builds partnerships during NATO disaster response exercise

Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta
7th CSC Public Affairs

TBILISI, Georgia — The 7th Civil Support Command’s 773rd Civil Support Team participated in the annual NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre partnership foreign consequence management exercise Sept. 22 to 28, held at the Georgian Army’s National Training Site, here.

“Georgia 2012 is an exercise to respond to a simulated earthquake situation
here,” said Guenter Bretschneider, director of the EADRCC. The exercise tested the nations’ FCM capabilities to see how they would respond to a real-world disaster in Europe and the Caucasus region.

“We’re the only OCONUS-based civil support team in the Army inventory,” said Capt. Jason Zdunich, 773rd CST operations officer. “The 773rd CST has a two-theater region of responsibility, AFRICOM (Africa Command) and EUCOM (European Command).”

“We never know when a call for help may come or where it will come from,” Zdunich said. “If there is a large-scale incident in any country in Europe or AFRICOM, we have to be able to move from point A to point B, and this exercise is the first time that we’ve actually done it by air. So it’s a great learning experience for us.”

Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard, 773rd CST commander, said, “(This) is a great opportunity for us. This is the first time a (U.S.) unit has been able to do this exercise.”
Georgia 2012 was also an opportunity for the EADRCC to teach international FCM and CBRN standards to the participating teams.

The variety of scenarios the international teams responded to included: derailment of a railway car, collapsed buildings, chemical spills, radiological substance release as well as a damaged oil pipeline.

“There’s one very important aspect, which is the training and the use of internationally agreed standards,” Bretschneider said. NATO has developed guidelines and minimum standards for the response to chemical, biological or radiological

incidents and we are training that as well.” Building partnerships in lieu of a future disaster was another Georgia 2012 exercise objective. “(The goal) for me as the commander … it’s (about) building partnership capacity, it’s building the relationships that we’ll need because (in the) real world this may happen,” Dillard said. “So, I want to be able to work with those countries that I may have to respond to. They’ll know who we are. They’ll already know our capabilities, and what we’re able to do.”

During the exercise, the U.S. team worked alongside the Armenians, Georgian, Polish and Kazakhstan teams as well as the Azerbaijan CBRN team.
“I think it’s great that we’re working with multiple different countries,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Butler, survey/decontamination team, a member of the 773rd CST, after being “decontaminated” by the Azerbaijan CBRN unit.   
“They (the U.S.) have the professional team,” said Lt. Matin Guliyer, Civil Defense Crisis Management Center senior officer.

If there is a future disaster we will help each other (in the region), Guliyer said.
“We learned the characteristics of the region and the capabilities of the other teams,” he added.

“It was great,” said Irakli Kadagidze, director of Georgia’s Emergency Management Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Our teams learned a lot, learned from the U.S. experience, (including) CBRN.”

More than 1,000 participants, representing more than 30 nations took part, including 450 international participants and almost 600 from the Republic of Georgia.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Dillard said. “It just speaks to the seriousness of foreign consequence management and our role.”   
“This really is the flagship event each year — in NATO civil emergency planning,” Bretschneider said. “What we are simulating here is as close to reality as possible. The overall (objective) is to foster cooperation between nations.”  

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